AGL Energy’s virtual power plant in metropolitan Adelaide has reached critical mass and “gone live”, the company announced today.

More than 60 residential batteries have been installed and orchestrated in a project anticipated to include 1,000 batteries on completion.

So far the virtual power plant (VPP) has stored and delivered more than 10,000kWh, relying on more than 300kW of battery capacity and more than 200kW of associated solar capacity.

The VPP works by using the Sunverge cloud-connected energy management system, which allows batteries to be directed in unison.

A network of domestic batteries orchestrated by a commanding optimisation system can provide grid stability services by discharging at a time that will be of greatest benefit for the customer and the community, AGL hopes.

The vast majority of the time this will help consumers to self-consume their stored solar power during peak demand periods, the company says, benefiting both them and the broader community to manage peaks in electricity demand.

The project is being rolled out in three phases over about 18 months with a target for 1,000 batteries.

Households participating in the project can buy an 11.6kWh storage system including hardware, software and install for $3,849, and those who don’t have rooftop solar already can purchase a system with their battery.

AGL says the current rollout of 60-plus batteries gives the project critical mass.

“What we are currently seeing is the ability to simultaneously aggregate the battery discharge, which is a necessary step towards full orchestration capability,” said AGL managing director and CEO Andy Vesey.

“This also demonstrates the capability of the VPP to provide grid support services, including peak demand management and frequency control services, and we’ll share these results in our first public report in May this year.

“We believe the VPP will deliver benefits for multiple groups including for customers by reducing their energy bills, the network by lowering required capital investment to upgrade infrastructure, for AGL by providing another source of generation to deploy into the network with the balance used in our portfolio, and the environment through reduced emissions.”

AGL estimates customers in the VPP trial will save around $500 per year on their energy bill.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is providing up to $5 million funding to support the $20 million project.

“This trial will pave the way for more virtual power plants to be added to our networks, increasing energy security and reliability by enabling networks to capture, store and deliver solar direct from customers’ roofs, rather than relying solely on grid infrastructure,” said ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischknecht.